Bookworms who live in the Manchester borough of Trafford will be pleased to learn that the council has decided to abolish late fines for library books, the first council in the UK to do so. In a statement, the Trafford council stated that fines can be “off-putting for customers” and it hopes that this change will encourage more readers to visit their local library.
As The Guardian reports, the change will come to pass in April of this year and will apply to readers of all ages. It is hoped that this change in the rules will see “a further increase in usage of libraries across the borough.” The council added: “This change also aligns with the Vision 2031 ambition of ‘no one held back, no one left behind’ as there would be no barriers, either actual or perceived, of people accessing libraries and all they had to offer.”
2017 proved to be a strong year for libraries in the area and saw the first increase in library usage in 17 years. Council leader Sean Anstee said: “It’s another way to encourage usage. It will be a permanent change, but we have said to councillors that scrutiny is welcome, to look at the impact of the decision.”
Some have voiced concerns that the removal of fines will see an increase in the number of books going missing, but Anstee disagreed, saying: “We don’t have an issue with people retaining books at the moment and if we didn’t have a book returned, that person’s ability to borrow more books would be removed.”
Anstee referenced Bolton, which removed fines for readers under the age of 16. The council there only made £30,000 a year from fines and, once the fines were removed, library attendance increased.
Trafford currently has 12 libraries, four of which are being rebuilt. Whilst libraries appear to be thriving, others are not. For instance, down south, almost half of Somerset’s 34 libraries are at risk. “We are trying to position them as focal points at the heart of the community,” said Anstee. “It hasn’t been easy to keep them, but it is a choice.”
The removal of fines has been warmly received by library and information association CILIP. Chief executive Nick Poole said: “Libraries are unique public spaces providing free access to reading and learning. They are there for everyone, and anything that removes barriers to joining and using the library is very welcome. Trafford council’s announcement to abolish library fines for all ages is an exceptional development. As long as sums add up then we would like to see all libraries taking similar steps to encourage more members and more reading.”
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